Sheffield Wednesday: Afobe targeting derby debut

Benik Afobe gives the thumbs-up to his Hillsborough loan move
Benik Afobe gives the thumbs-up to his Hillsborough loan move

New Wednesday signing Benik Afobe insists that he is ready to be plunged into the derby against Barnsley tomorrow as he bids to put his career back on track.

It would be the Arsenal striker’s first senior game since he injured cruciate ligaments while playing on loan for Millwall against Wolves in March.

But he says he has regained his fitness and sharpness with seven outings for the Gunners - which have brought him five goals.

The 20-year-old is also returning to the stadium where he made his professional debut - as an on-loan sub for Huddersfield in a 2-0 win against the Owls just over three years ago.

He says: “I feel ready. I have played seven games for the (Arsena) reserves, I know it’s not the same as the Championship, but have scored in five of those games.

“I have played in the Championship before, so I know what it’s all about. I am quicker and stronger now, so think I will be ready from the start.”

He returned to match action at the end of October after a full recovery from his knee injury: “That’s all behind me now, I feel sharp and fit. I have had my fair share of reserve team games and now ready for the first-team.. “I was out for seven-and-a-half months, it was a difficult time, but had good people around me. Mentally I am pretty strong too.”

Afobe, who is loan for the rest of the season, has also had loan spells at Reading and Bolton since making his Hillsborough bow for Huddersfield in 2010: “I came on for 25 minutes.

“It was a big game, I only came in the morning, so hadn’t trained with the Town players. I remember watching the game and thinking ‘wow, this is very different to youth team football’. I went from the Under-18s, not playing reserves, straight into League One football.

“I remember Jordan Rhodes scoring. That guy is the best finisher I have played with, so far.”

Afobe, who is not Cup-tied, regards himself as a goal-scorer: “I think I’ve got good movement and am very quick, I would say. I like to get in behind defenders and score goals.

“I am a centre forward but I don’t mind playing anywhere. These days as a forward you have to be versatile, and Arsenal are quite flexible about where you go, so I’ve been used to playing in different positions.”

Owls boss Stuart Gray used to work for the FA at England Under 21s games so saw him several times then, and watched him play for Arsenal U-21s on Monday: “He’s hungry, technically good, a quality player who’s going to get better. He’s got pace and he’s strong.”